Saturday, 27 September 2008

Want and need; just ask

Working for a publically marketed social responsibility initiative, my days are filled with requests from schools and organisations for us to "get involved" with them. I inevitably reply to say, "Tell me what you want and I'll be able to let you know if and how we're able to assist".

"Get involved" is so intangible. On my side I know what my company can and can't do. We don't run events for them and we don't provide funding or sponsorships; but we do hand out balls and I also frequently have my hands on second-hand sports equipment, which I'm eager to pass on. To date I have been able to fulfill all of the requests I've received for balls - and there have been a lot of them.

Yesterday I spoke to a lovely lady, who had contacted me a few weeks ago. I'll be sending some balls through to her next week. She is now retired and putting her efforts into community projects, particularly rural schools in the area. During our conversation she brought up how difficult she finds it, being quite shy, to approach companies, organisations and people to ask for things. I gave her a couple of pointers and suggested she just jump in, making sure to address specific requests (what, how many, when). Companies do like to assist where they can (saying yes is a feel-good experience and it is harder to say no as most people have an inherent desire to please); and if you give them something definite to say yes or no to, you'll speed up the process and have a better success rate.

Another example of this "just ask" phenomenon is internet dating. A few years ago I spent a few weeks hanging out on an internet dating site. The experience was... eye opening. This is one forum where people literally ask for what they want; and there's certainly going to be someone out there into birding, stamp collecting and thigh-high boots. But if they don't ask for what they want, they won't find curvaceous ladies into gardening naked and archery.

We've been brought up in a tentative environment where asking outright often appears rude, opportunistic and greedy. Regress friends, to those childhood days before your social-self dominated. Back then you worked on mommy with plaintive demands of "I want..." and "I need...".

Within relationships you also have to ask for what you want and need. We get busy with work, sport, friends and family, distracted from our needs until it is too late. If necessary, you may have to ask for appreciation, respect, affection and time. If you don't get it, get out.

There's a great website I follow - (Technology, Entertainment and Design: Ideas worth sharing). The annual TED conference brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available (videos) to the public, for free, on the website.

I've just watched one of the newly posted talks (3-minutes) by Laura Trice (counsellor and life coach) on the importance of appreciation and thank you. In her talk she says, "Be honest about what you need". If you know what you need (5 balls, 4 cricket bats and 2 tennis racquets), others can help you get it.

Relating this thoughful posting to adventure racing... when you approach sponsors, tell them exactly what you want from them and what you can do for them - list in point form for simplicity. And don't be shy to approach companies. What's the worst that can happen? They say no? That's far from being a crisis because you didn't have them onboard in the first place. But if they say yes to a specific request, then you're one step ahead.

ESP is a 6th sense most of us do not possess: if you don't ask, you won't get.

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